Scor­pio News


April–June 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 2.

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The Dave Hunt Bits – Dateline March

Have new job – will travel.

I don’t know why I bothered about a dateline, I’m in trouble with the editor for not having produced copy on time, rather than the old regime, where I would write something and find that it was printed a year later. I don’t know if you’d noticed, but I usually used to contrive to include something in the text which would date a piece, something which it would be difficult to edit out without rewriting a paragraph or so. Now the tables are turned. Oh well …

So lets have a round up of the DH news, people seem to be interested in what I get up to (or is it that I’ big headed enough to think that people OUGHT to be interested in what I get up to?). Anyway, as mentioned in the last issue, I’ve changed jobs since the demise of 80-BUS. Not an entirely voluntary change I must confess, but on the whole a change for the better. The new lot make me work harder (but I now enjoy what I do rather more), they send me gadding about the world (or at Least Europe, and it’s been hinted I ought to get a US visa in my passport).

Gadding about Europe is a pastime I normally rather enjoy, until, that is, you find yourself stuck in a taxi outside Frankfurt being driven by a manic octogenarian lady taxi driver who doesn’t speak a word of English, and I’m late for my plane. My limited German led me to believe that she was either born in 1907 or that was the date she moved from the north to Altenstadt in the south. Either way, if Stirling Moss is as lively at that age, God help the average road user. Included in Europe, I suppose, should be s couple of visits to the submarine yards at Barrow in Furness, and several visits to the environs of Liverpool. The best my previous employer ever landed me with was a week or so in Baghdad, an episode best forgotten. (You can forget ‘1001 Nights’. etc.)

Micro-driven micro-film

So what is it I do? Well I now work for a microfilm company as ‘The Guy Wot Knows about Computers’. Now microfilm is something I rather thought had died when large computer databases were invented. The first few weeks in the new job soon convinced me otherwise. Microfilm, I have discovered, is a far more viable archival storage medium for your average paper work than computer databases are, or are likely to be (optical disks, not withstanding). A rather sweeping statement, but one I now feel I can substantiate. There are some rather interesting statistics related to archival media. Did you know that only about 5% of the archived paper in thit country is held on microfilm, whilst only 2% of archived paper is held in computer databases? I certainly didn’t, and that’s what my job is now about. Having stuffed archival paper work onto film, how the heck do you find it again?

Some time ago I was approached by these people to look into what has become termed by the awful jargon acronym, CAR (Computer Aided Retrieval). This means building a database for use on a micro, which contains references to the film. It works by whittling away at the given search criteria until you end up with a discrete frame. The frame information is then sent to an automated microfilm reader which goes away and finds the film you want, and ultimately displays the frame you’re after.

The whole process takes about six seconds, about 5 and a half of which are whirring and clicking from the film reader. So having written a pilot program on the Gemini, I was commissioned to write it properly, but this tme on an IBM as the potential customers had been identified as already having BM PC’s of various like coming out of their ears. I finished the job early last year. Since then, customers have come up with lots of bright ideas and what I thought was a one off has turned in to a never ending process. The current program being sold with all the kit is about six months old, but two newer and better and cleverer versions exist, and will receive their public launch at the INFO 87 exhibition at Olympia at the end of March.

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